Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Central Plains Area Agency on Aging

Learn how this agency partners with Catholic Diocese and the Catholic Heart Work Camp where over 300 teen volunteers work with older adults to address home maintenance and modification needs such as accessibility, safety, weatherization, painting and beautification.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2020 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on Central Plains Area Agency on Aging's Catholic Heart Work Camp Project. The agency was a 2020 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Housing category. The 2020 AIA Awards were made possible thanks to the support of Centene.
A safe and comfortable place to live is a top priority at any age. However, most homes were not built to support the mobility, sensory and cognitive changes that often accompany aging. Recognizing this issue, Central Plains Area Agency on Aging (CPAAA) partnered with the Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC) to revitalize the homes of older adults living in Wichita, KS. For five days each summer from 2015–2018, approximately 250 volunteers ages 13 to 18 assisted individuals identified by CPAAA and provided a range of services, including extensive yard maintenance, painting, repairs and installation of ramps, handrails and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.
“Through this project we are able to leverage partners to expand our capacity to assist a higher volume of clients within a short period of time and address critical needs that community members could not have addressed alone,” said Annette Graham, Executive Director for CPAAA. “Also, participation in the CHWC has enabled CPAAA to address clients with multiple needs all at one time. Partnerships with construction professionals now give us a full assessment of the homeowner's needs, which helped us develop a more realistic timeline of the time required to successfully complete each project.”
The annual event has grown into a partnership that has far outstretched initial expectations. The project has resulted in repairs, maintenance and home or safety modifications for 272 clients, helping older adults served by the program to continue living in their homes. Repairs improved safety and accessibility for 100 percent of involved participants and helped 20 individuals with active code violations avoid or reduce court fees and fines.
“During our first camp, we met Ms. R., who was very excited to learn of the event from her case worker. Ms. R.'s only request was to paint her home a very bright blue. With the help of Sherwin Williams, we did it. At the conclusion of camp, we had painted her home, built a ramp and cleaned the yard. Ms. R. was moved to tears,” said Graham. “The unexpected moment during the client's project inspired the neighborhood to begin revitalizing the entire community.”
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Catholic Heart Work Camp Project was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. To learn more about the Catholic Heart Work Camp Project and how you can replicate a similar program in your community, contact Annette Graham,

For more information about the 2020 winners, see the press release and read the book of winners! To read about past winners and find other best practices for your agency to consider, visit our Best Practices Clearinghouse page.

Interested in receiving an AIA Award for your agency's program? The 2021 AIA Awards nominations process is now open. Read our nominations process guide and consider submitting some of your programs before today's deadline!



USAging Fact: Learn about your peers’ work—and how it can fit into your agency’s goals! The AIA Awards recognizes successful and innovative programs that USAging members have developed to serve older adults. Get inspiration from our 2023 winners!